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Hollywood prepares for its Oscars close-up

Agence France Presse   | February 24, 2013 15:06 IST (Los Angeles)
Barbra Streisand

Ben Affleck's Argo and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln have been nominated for the Oscar Best Picture.

The stage is set for the 85th Academy Awards, with Ben Affleck's Argo bidding to edge out Steven Spielberg's Lincoln.

The stage is set for the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday, with Ben Affleck's Iran hostage drama Argo bidding to edge out Steven Spielberg's Lincoln at the climax of Hollywood's awards season.

The red carpet is rolled out and ready for Tinseltown's finest to strut and preen before the Oscars show, widely seen as one of the least predictable in recent memory following a bumper movie year.

British songstress Adele shone at rehearsals on the eve of the heavily musical night, when she will sing 007 theme Skyfall and legendary diva Barbra Streisand will give her first Oscars performance for 36 years.

"Can I get more piano at the very beginning actually?" the 24-year-old said after sound checks at the Dolby Theatre, where the cast of Oscar-nominated musical Les Miserables also practiced, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Out front, on the closed-off section of Hollywood Boulevard, armies of technicians and workers have put the final touches to the red carpet where Spielberg, Affleck and dozens of fellow nominees gather before the show.

Spielberg, bidding for his first best picture Oscar since Schindler's List in 1994, tops the nominations with 12 nods for Lincoln -but Argo has cleaned up in Hollywood's awards season so far, despite having only seven.

Although he started the season two months ago in front, Spielberg may have to settle on Sunday for the best director award -- one that Affleck cannot beat him to, having not been nominated in the category, in a perceived snub.

But again here there could be an upset, with rivals including Taiwan-born Ang Lee for Life of Pi, David O Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, or even Austrian dark horse director Michael Haneke for Cannes-topping Amour.

One near-certainty Sunday is that Lincoln star Daniel Day-Lewis will be named best actor, a record third for the British-Irish actor after wins in 1990 for My Left Foot and in 2008 for There Will Be Blood.

For best actress, the early favorite was Jessica Chastain, playing a CIA agent hunting Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, but the clever money is now on Jennifer Lawrence for her turn in Silver Linings Playbook.

The best supporting actress race is more open, although Anne Hathaway is probably still the frontrunner for her heart-wrenching turn in Les Miserables, which is also nominated for best picture.

The most unpredictable race of all is perhaps for supporting actor, with Hollywood legend Robert De Niro tipped by some for playing Cooper's father in Silver Linings Playbook.

But strong rivals in the category include Austrian Christoph Waltz as a white bounty hunter who frees Jamie Foxx's black slave in Quentin Tarantino's blood-spattered Django Unchained, as well as Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln.

On the foreign front, the clear frontrunner is Amour, which won the Palme d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival for its heart-wrenching portrayal of an elderly couple coping with encroaching physical and mental illness.

Its French female lead, Emmanuelle Riva, could even cause an upset in the best actress category, some critics believe. Riva, who will be 86 on Sunday, is coincidentally also the oldest ever best actress nominee.

Amour (Love) is also among the nine films nominated for best picture, although it is not seen as a favorite there.

On a more colourful note, the best animated feature contest is widely seen as a battle between Scottish-themed princess adventure Brave and Wreck-It Ralph, about a video game villain fed up with being the bad guy.

The fast and fun movie pays subtle homage to generations of computer games, in a feel-good story appealing to both mainstream cinema-goers and hard-core animation filmmakers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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